The strongman syndrome

Russian president Vladimir Putin has been praising Donald Trump, who has been returning the favor.   When it was brought up that Putin has a habit of killing his critics, Trump said that our country also does a lot of killing.  (See details after the jump.)

It isn’t just that the two have a mutual admiration society going.  David Ignatius says that Trump is America’s Putin.

I think what we are seeing is the strongman syndrome.  Democracies, by their nature, make for weak central governments and so have trouble “getting things done.”   So when things get bad, at some point, the very people who constitute the democracy, turn to a “strongman” to solve their problems, even though he will also do away with their rights.

This happened with the Greek democracy and the Roman Republic.  It happened when the French revolution turned to Napoleon and when the Russian revolution turned to Stalin.  It happened again after the fall of Communism, when the Russian people turned away from the messy democracy they had been trying in favor of the authoritarian Putin.  It happens regularly in Latin America.  Isn’t this what is happening in this country with the popularity of Donald Trump? [Read more...]

Donald Trump and the Führerprinzip

A strong leader will rise up to solve all of our problems by sheer force of his will.  We easily succumb to that kind of promise in businesses and even in churches.  And even in national governments.  This trust in an all-powerful leader is called Führerprinzip.  Yes, it was refined in Nazi Germany, but it has manifested itself ever since in popular movements that hand over power to a dictator.  But also in kinder and gentler forms of authoritarians and in a particular kind of political superstition that puts the person of the leader over any particular policies, ideologies, Constitutional processes, or limits on government.

The leader that people are looking to today is Donald Trump.  Is he that kind of leader?  Jeffrey Tucker is arguing that “Trumpism” is a revival of fascism.  Not the insult that the left freely throws around, but an actual return of the political and economic ideology that was rampant in the 1930s, not just in Germany,  Italy, and Spain but with advocates in virtually every European nation.  (I’ve written about what those fascists believed.  There is more to it than Mr. Tucker gives here, but it’s true that fascism is not just a shorthand term for evil, but an actual thing, which did not disappear with the end of World War II.)

Another article applies the Führerprinzip in another, though related way, arguing that Donald Trump is America’s Vladimir Putin (who has also been described as a Russian fascist).  See excerpts from the Fascism and Putin arguments after the jump.  Do you think Trump rises to the level of that kind of leader?  Those of you who like Trump, how would you defend him from these charges? [Read more...]

Putin as conservative?

The word “conservative” means different things in the United States and Europe.  American conservatives tend to value personal liberty, free market economics, and small government.  Europeans call that being “liberal.”  European conservatives tend to hearken back to the good old days of the monarchies, being suspicious of democracy and civil liberties.  Both the European left and the European right favor big government.

Today the European right, which is reportedly poised for big electoral victories, is openly supporting Russia’s Vladimir Putin.  See why after the jump. [Read more...]

Russia backs off from Ukraine

Russia continues to hold the Crimea peninsula, but Vladimir Putin said that he would not use force against the rest of Ukraine, while reserving the right to do so.  [Read more...]

U.S. & Russia agree on Syria plan

So should Vladimir Putin get the Nobel Peace Prize?  Does this get President Obama out of the mess he was in, turning a fiasco into a victory?

The United States and Russia agreed Saturday on a plan to bring Syrian chemical weapons under international control, a rare diplomatic victory in a brutal civil war that appears to head off a punitive U.S. military strike on Syria in the near future. [Read more...]

Vladimir the Great

Ralph Peters writes that the world has only one towering figure in the halls of power, one ruler of genius:  Vladimir Putin.

There is one incontestably great actor on the world stage today, and he has no interest in following our script. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin — soon to be Russia’s president again — has proven remarkably effective at playing the weak strategic hand he inherited, chalking up triumph after triumph while confirming himself as the strong leader Russians crave. Not one of his international peers evidences so profound an understanding of his or her people, or possesses Putin’s canny ability to size up counterparts.

Putin’s genius — and it is nothing less — begins with an insight into governance that eluded the “great” dictators of the last century: You need control only public life, not personal lives. Putin grasped that human beings need to let off steam about the world’s ills, and that letting them do so around the kitchen table, over a bottle of vodka, does no harm to the state. His tacit compact with the Russian people is that they may do or say what they like behind closed doors, as long as they don’t take it into the streets. He saw that an authoritarian state that stops at the front door is not only tolerable but also more efficient.

As for the defiant, he kills or imprisons them. But there are no great purges, no Gulag — only carefully chosen, exemplary victims, such as anti-corruption activist Sergei Magnitsky, who died in police custody, or the disobedient billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky, imprisoned on charges Russians regard as black humor. Western consciences may be briefly troubled, but Putin knows the international community won’t impose meaningful penalties. Seduced by Kremlin policies — from oil and gas concessions to cynical hints of strategic cooperation — Western leaders have too many chips in the game. And at home, the common people, the chorny narod, don’t mind. Instead, they gloat when the czar cuts off the beards of the boyars — or humbles an envied oligarch. As for gadfly journalists, Putin wagered that they could be eliminated with impunity, as in the case of Anna Politkovskaya. Our outrage is pro forma and temporary.

Domestically, Putin’s tactile sense of his people is matchless. His bare-chested poses seem ludicrous to us, but Russians see a nastoyashi muzhik, a “real man.” And his sobriety makes him the fantasy husband of Russia’s beleaguered wives.

Not least, Putin has renewed Russian confidence in the country’s greatness. Consistently playing an international role far greater than Russia’s capabilities warrant, he reawakened the old Stalinist sense that while the people may suffer, they do so in service to a greater destiny.

via The genius of Vladimir Putin – The Washington Post.

Which brings up a bigger issue:  Could democracy be finished?  The canny authoritarianism of Putin is “more efficient” than democratic alternatives.  That approach can “get things done” in a way that democratic processes don’t seem to be able to.  The “China model” that trades freedom for prosperity is being hailed as the one economic and political system that is “working.”  Meanwhile, democracies such as ours are paralyzed.

Is democracy doomed?  Is some form of Putinism in government and the China model in economics the wave of the future?


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